Skills changing lives

Otago-based offenders on community sentence train for forklift-driving qualifications. Photo supplied.
Otago-based offenders on community sentence train for forklift-driving qualifications. Photo supplied.
Training for getting a job is changing the lives of offenders, but work opportunities from Otago employers are needed.

•  Second chance to get it right

Since January, 162 offenders in Otago received more than 2000 hours of training as part of their community sentences.

Training and qualifications under the Department of Corrections' trade training programme include basic carpentry, hospitality, food safety, building skills, agriculture skills, forklift driving and barista courses.

Under the programme, probation officers could direct a fifth of a community work sentences of more than 80 hours to be spent on work and living skills training, while the remainder of the sentences was for work supporting community organisations.

Otago Community Corrections training project leader Sherie Lucke said research showed a strong correlation between employment and reduced offending.

''By providing offenders with employable skills and helping them stay away from crime, we are improving the lives of individuals, their families and, ultimately, the whole community,'' Mrs Lucke said.

Nearly 60% of community offenders were unemployed, many having limited work experience or skills.

The programme gave them job skills and qualifications and they developed good work habits.

''What we need now is for Otago employers to give these people a chance.

''This is something we can do as a community to improve public safety, and to break the cycle of offending.

''Employment has a ripple effect and is key to creating lasting positive change in the lives of the individual, their family and future generations.''

The Corrections Department was committed to cutting reoffending by 25% by 2017.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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